Although DDR5 RAM looks quite similar to its previous generation DDR4 or DDR3 RAM sticks, they both are in no way compatible. This is typical because RAM generation is not backward compatible. It is not only because of the RAM technology but also because of the fact that DDR4 RAM will not fit in the DDR3 slots. In the same way, DDR5 RAM won’t work properly in a motherboard that is designed for DDR4 RAMs. Therefore, you will need to have a motherboard with DDR5 slots to get it in!
What is DDR5?
DDR 5 RAM is basically the most recent and updated version of the memory available today. The release of DDR5 from JDEC was initially scheduled for release in 2018 and then it got postponed till the 14th of July 2020. Finally, it got released on 4th November 2021 for the retail customers. SK Hynix revealed the first DDR5 chip on 6th October 2020, which was then targeted for Machine Learning and Big Data, or AI. Later on, with the availability of the servers, it could be made available for the gamers too!
How different is DDR5 compared to that DDR4?
It is typically a new standard with the underlying technology specs being added to it. The voltage requirement, the pinout, and of course, the compatibility scales are different!
Reasons why DDR 5 RAM won’t be compatible in either DDR4 or DDR6 motherboards
It is important to understand that DDR5 RAM would neither be compatible with DDR4 sticks nor it would fit right into DDR6 slots. This is because as RAM generation is not backward accessible, it is not going to be forward compatible too! Here are a few significant reasons for the same:
RAM sticks across various generations usually come with different physical profiles
RAM sticks across different generations are having different voltage requirements
- Each generation of RAM usually comes with a different controller
- RAM generation and their physical profile
RAM sticks and their respective slots look pretty identical across different generations. However, if you look at them a little closer, you will get to know that not just a DDR 4 RAM will have a different pin count in comparison to its older versions but they also come with either a notch or a key. Listed below are the pin counts of different generations of Desktop RAM sticks:
- DIMM DDR 1: 184 Pins
- DIMM DDR 2: 240 Pins
- DIMM DDR 3: 240 Pins
- DIMM DDR 4: 288 Pins
- DIMM DDR 5: 288 Pins
Listed below are the pin counts of SO-DIMM (Laptop) RAM sticks:
- SO-DIMM DDR 1: 200 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 2: 200 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 3: 204 Pins
- SO-DIMM DDR 4: 260 Pins
Thus, the mismatch in the physical profiles of the RAM sticks ensures that they aren’t compatible with one another.
RAM sticks versus their voltage requirement
RAMs across different generations usually come with their defined voltage requirement. According to the recently developed models available in the market, an average RAM stick from the newer generation comes with a reduced voltage requirement. This is a clear indication that the VRMs and the RAM slots on the older motherboards are capable of damaging the newer sticks. Listed below are the voltage requirement of various RAM generations:
- DDR1 – 2.5 – 2.6 V
- DDR2 – 1.8 V
- DDR3 – 1.35 – 1.5 V
- DDR4 – 1.05 – 1.2 V
- DDR5 – 1.1 V
The minimum and maximum voltage requirement of a RAM usually depends on the frequency at which the RAM is functioning! A DDR4 1600 MHz stick generally seeks a lower voltage as compared to that of a DDR4 3200 MHz stick. The general motion is that frequency is directly proportional to the voltage requirement, but this isn’t the rule anymore with the components from the new generation. Also, the power efficiency of the stick usually improved with that of the performance of the RAM sticks.
RAM Generation Requiring a Separate Controller
All the motherboards usually have a RAM controller, often known as the memory controller. It is responsible for transferring information to and from the CPU’s memory. Most of the motherboards that you buy today will have them fitted right into the chipset. Since the electrical design of each RAM generation is different, so is their design specification for the memory controller. Therefore, even if you are bringing the DDR5 slots to use in the DDR4 RAM, your motherboard will not be aware of how to control the new generation RAM. To access or enable DDR 5 support into a DDR4 motherboard, you will need to change the whole motherboard. Consequently, you will have to change all the other aspects as well – from ICs, to the slots and the CPU socket, which obviously does not make any sense!